32 SES 06 A, Coaching and Mentoring in Educational Organizations
In many countries across the globe, schools in socially deprived areas have for some time been actively engaging in school and curriculum improvement in order to enhance learning performances and equity in education. A growing number of schools is increasingly willing to take its school improvement process no longer alone, but to master it with the help of external coaches or school improvement consultants, respectively (cf. Dedering et al., 2013, p. 13). Hence, school improvement consultancy, generally being anchored on a conceptual level in the form of steering groups rather than concrete lesson improvement in Germany, becomes more and more important for schools in socially deprived areas. However, this kind of school improvement consultancy might be only partly successful, as school-improvement consulting seems to be especially beneficial if combined with school-wide strategies of working in professional learning communities that allow for a broad impact on holistic school improvement (cf. Stoll et al., 2006; Coburn and Russel, 2008).
In North-Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, a new model project named “Talent Schools” has been recently initiated by the Federal States’ Ministry for School and Education. This project aims at fostering school improvement in schools serving disadvantaged communities over a period of six years (2019-2025). In order to reduce the achievement gap, schools are provided with additional financial resources, additional staff and the implementation of instructional concepts and strategies designed to enhance students’ performance, as well as linguistic and social competence. A total of 60 schools (45 secondary and 15 vocational schools) from each of the five governmental districts of North-Rhine-Westphalia were selected to take part in the trial after they applied with a letter of intent declaring the school’s willingness for school improvement and the envisaged activities. Furthermore, schools are provided with mandatory coaching that serves as a key element of projects professional development strategy. This is quite remarkable, as school improvement consultancy in the German-speaking context is usually done on a voluntary and not compulsory basis.
Against this backdrop, we ask how the involved school improvement consultants define their role(s), tasks, and working methods as external consultants. We also evaluate the extent to which these understandings and procedures can be seen as beneficial for fostering educational equity by narrowing the achievement gap.
Research questions are the following: What role(s) do the consultants occupy within school improvement activities in the context of the model project? Which strategies and which working methods result from this understanding of roles? Finally, to what extent can these understandings and procedures be seen as beneficial for fostering educational equity? By examining to what extent school improvement consultants see themselves as “change agents”, actively encouraging schools to enhance student learning and equity in education, we wish to strengthen our understanding of coaching in improvement activities among schools serving disadvantaged communities.
Our analyses are based on a standardized online survey of school leaders, and on 15 guideline-based interviews with school improvement consultants that were conducted at the beginning of the project. The survey was conducted among the first cohort of 35 schools in the school year 2019/20 between February and April 2020. It took about 45 minutes and captured the initial conditions at the talent schools with regard to school and teaching conditions, including aims and strategies in the context of the school experiment and cooperation with external school improvement consultants. The qualitative interviews were analyzed using qualitative content analysis and typifying structuring of the interview material (Mayring 2003). In doing so, we first structured the interview material according to relevant aspects related to the professional understanding and role of the school improvement consultants and deductively derived relevant categories from our interview guide. The following categories were of special interest: the understanding of the tasks and responsibilities as a school improvement consultant and the description of the specific school improvement activities. In a second step, we inductively derived subcodes from the relevant categories. To further deepen our understanding of the tasks, motives, and role(s) of the school improvement consultants, the interviews will also be analyzed using reconstructive social research (Bohnsack et al. 2013).
Our findings show that the school management teams generally rate the cooperation with school improvement consultants as little positive, especially at vocational schools. More specifically, many respondents tend to perceive the cooperation with the school improvement consultants more as a burden than as a relief. The results from the qualitative interview data show that the school improvement consultants face resistance against their coaching efforts, which may be attributed to the obligatory nature of their work in the school trial. Furthermore, there appears to be a marked discrepancy between the consultants’ chosen approach of (re-)structuring development processes through organizational, communicative action, and the declared objective of the school trial. More specifically, we found that the consultants mainly proceed as they also do in other coaching processes, showing no special orientation towards the specific situation of the schools in socially deprived areas. In other words, the coaches make no fundamental difference between counseling processes in general and under the specific conditions of the model project. The latter involves working at schools serving disadvantaged communities which aim to enhance students’ educational opportunities through the implementation of new instructional concepts and strategies in order to achieve greater educational equity. Our contribution helps to better understand coaching and mentoring in improvement activities among schools serving disadvantaged communities by offering insights into the motives, role(s), and working methods of external school improvement consultants.
Bohnsack, R., Nentwig-Gesemann, I. & Nohl, A.-N. (ed.) (2013): Die dokumentarische Methode und ihre Forschungspraxis. Grundlagen qualitativer Sozialforschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 3rd Edition. Coburn, C. and Russell, J. (2008), Getting the most out of professional learning communities and coaching: Promoting interactions that support instructional improvement, Learning Policy Brief, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp. 1-5. Dedering, K. et al. (2013), Wenn Experten in die Schule kommen. Schulentwicklungsberatung – empirisch betrachtet, Springer VS, Wiesbaden. Mayring, P. (2003), Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken, Beltz, Weinheim. Stoll, L. et al. (2006), Professional learning communities: A review of the literature. Journal of educational change, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 221-258.
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.